2023 NDAA represents swan song in Senate of a long-time stalwart of the radical right
The ghosts of Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan must be looking down with pride on their devoted acolyte, Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma, known as “the hawk’s hawk.” He recently succeeded in pushing through a $45 billion addition to the latest military budget that brings its total to a staggering $850 billion.
Inhofe has been in the Senate for 28 years, 27 of which he spent on the Senate Armed Services Committee, where he was able to thank the weapons manufacturers who donated millions to his political campaigns by stuffing their pockets with billions of dollars in military weapons contracts.
But Inhofe is now retiring, and to honor him, and his success in pushing the size of America’s defense budget into Guinness World Records territory, his colleagues on the Armed Services Committee unanimously voted to name the new military budget The James M. Inhofe National Defense Authorization Act of Fiscal Year 2023.
The NDAA includes $30 billion to develop new nuclear weapons to destroy humankind and for the Pentagon to acquire more of Lockheed Martin’s F-35s, Joint Strike Fighter jets designed to carry both conventional and nuclear weapons.
The NDAA also includes $6 billion—a $1 billion increase from last year—for the Pacific Deterrence Initiative (PDI) to threaten China with armed ground-based cruise, ballistic, and hypersonic missiles—hastening the prospects of World War III.
Considered a successful mayor of Tulsa (1978-1984), who ran a bond campaign to finance the damming of the Arkansas River, Inhofe first entered state government in 1967 when he took up the seat in the Oklahoma legislature replacing Dewey Bartlett Sr., an oilman and ally of Richard Nixon.
Popular among his constituents because of his conservative positions on “God, guns, and gays.” Inhofe said he was most inspired by Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan, heroes of the New Right, who sought to cut government social programs while ramping up military spending in the Cold War (both Goldwater and Reagan were superhawks on Vietnam).
Inhofe himself served in the U.S. Army in the 1950s before the Vietnam War broke out. In the last five years alone, he has received more than half a million dollars in campaign contributions from the defense, aerospace and oil and gas industries, which profit from high military budgets.
Oklahoma has six military bases, and the Department of Defense is the state’s largest employer.
In 2018, Inhofe was found to have purchased tens of thousands of dollars in Raytheon stock just a week after he lobbied the Trump administration to increase military spending to record levels.
Inhofe claims that $850 billion is needed in the NDAA to counter the “Chinese Communist Party accelerating the already historic modernization of its military,” and “Russia continuing to destabilize security in Europe,” along with “record-high inflation jeopardizing our buying power.”
According to Inhofe, “Congress must do everything we can to give our military every advantage on the battlefield.”
It is not clear, however, what battlefield Inhofe is talking about—except future ones the U.S. intends to establish by encircling China and Russia militarily and provoking them into unnecessary wars.
Further Militarizing Foreign Policy
Ilhan Omar (D-MN), one of 101 House members to vote against the NDAA, said that at a time Americans are “struggling with the soaring cost of basic items like food and housing, when Republicans are blocking investments in basic needs like health care, we should not be voting on a defense bill that doles out a record-shattering $800+ billion to the Pentagon.”
Omar added that “this bill will only further militarize foreign policy, lining the pockets of defense contractors while inevitably costing the lives of innocent people around the world. Despite an amendment I introduced, it blocks humanitarian aid to the Afghan people, further militarizes the Middle East and Indo-Pacific, and continues weapons sales to some of the most heinous human rights abusers in the world.”
Chillingly, the NDAA includes a provision from Rep. Jason Crow (D-CO) that would establish a National Space Guard—a further step in the militarization of Outer Space.
$800 million is budgeted for security assistance to Ukraine, including $100 million for training Ukrainian pilots and ground crews so they become familiarized with American aircraft.
Additional lowlights of the NDAA include:
- Increases funding for the U.S. Africa Command, AFRICOM, which is currently headed by a war criminal, Stephen Townsend, and has contributed to the recolonization of Africa
- Authorizes an increase of $19.9 million for U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM)—intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance—at a time of growing left-wing political ascendancy in South America
- Increases irregular warfare activities that often employ dark methods
- Authorizes $183.7 million for the continued training and equipping of “vetted Syrian groups,” which historically have included Islamic extremists bent on overthrowing Syria’s secular nationalist leader, Bashar al-Assad
- Extends the 31-year U.S. military attack on Iraq which has devastated that country
- Provides significant funding increases for “game-changing technologies,” including hypersonic weapons in response to an overhyped threat stemming from China’s testing of the weapons.
- Extends the disastrous Plan Colombia through 2024—even though Colombia’s newly elected president, Gustavo Petro, has rejected the U.S. War on Drugs and called for an alternative approach while pushing for an end to the Colombian government’s war on the left, for which Plan Colombia historically provided a cover.
- Provides significant increase in artificial intelligence (AI) funding which will dangerously take the human equation out of war even more than than it already has
- Expands research and development of nuclear sea-launched cruise missiles, hence extending the nuclear arms race
- Supports military coordination with Middle Eastern despots in an anti-Iranian alliance that could result in yet another major Middle East war
- Extends U.S. support for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)
- Ramps up military support for Taiwan—an egregious provocation directed against China
- In another blatant provocation directed against China, requires engagement with the Ministry of Defense of India to expand cooperation on emerging technology, readiness and logistics
- Authorizes a $29.8 million increase in military coordination with Canada, which has already become corrupted by military alliance with the U.S.
Warped Priorities—and a Lack of Pushback
While the U.S. Senate was putting the final touches on the 2023 NDAA, teachers in Little Rock, Arkansas, rallied in front of their State Capitol building demanding a living wage.
The average teacher’s salary in Arkansas is a paltry $36,000, which is only slightly above Inhofe’s home state of Oklahoma.
The latter figures underscore Ilhan Omar’s point about warped spending priorities, which has been a hallmark of James Inhofe’s political career and the New Right movement from which he came.
- Inhofe worked in aviation and became President of Quaker Life Insurance. When he ran for public office, he claimed to have graduated from the University of Tulsa in 1959 but actually only received his degree in 1973—before he ran for governor—when he did some independent studies. A professor in the sociology department at the University of Tulsa in the 1950s who was friendly with Inhofe’s sister told me that Inhofe was a poor student who came from a prominent family; he could not pass her class. ↑
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About the Author
Jeremy Kuzmarov is Managing Editor of CovertAction Magazine.
He is the author of four books on U.S. foreign policy, including Obama’s Unending Wars (Clarity Press, 2019) and The Russians Are Coming, Again, with John Marciano (Monthly Review Press, 2018).
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[…] Inhofe worked in aviation and became President of Quaker Life Insurance. When he ran for public office, he claimed to have graduated from the University of Tulsa in 1959 but actually only received his degree in 1973—before he ran for governor—when he did some independent studies. A professor in the sociology department at the University of Tulsa in the 1950s who was friendly with Inhofe’s sister told me that Inhofe was a poor student who came from a prominent family; he could not pass her class. ↑ […]
Inhofe and his fan club hastening the descent of the United States into the abyss. Nothing is weaker than a nation without basic infrastructure and citizens who don’t have homes, enough to eat, education, and something better than the garbage we call health care.